Our Moronic Media

I do not own a television. I have not owned a television for several years. Not so long ago, I used to regard such people as oddities; relics from a byegone era who take perverse pleasure in absenting themselves from contemporary culture. Now that I am one of those people, I am convinced that we are the wave of the future.

For a start, I am far from “disconnected”. Quite the reverse. The Internet and the Web allow me to access sources of information and opinion that are superior to anything available in the legacy media. While the press and the broadcasters prattle on about Corbyn reheating portions of a tired old speech, written in the 1980s—and some even have the arrogance to call this irrelevance news—there are others online who are putting in the hard graft of researching and reporting on a genuine scandal in the making (See: here, here, here, here and here).

The really worthwhile content is not to be found on either Netflix or Amazon Instant, it is on the blogs, the social networking sites and the independent YouTube channels. The ability of private individuals to publish globally without additional cost (only what it costs to connect to an ISP) has created a new form of media—still nascent and little noticed by those who occupy the legacy media bubble, naively assuming that they alone have the power to control the narrative—which will eventually usurp the monolithic giants that have ceased to meaningfully report on current events or reflect our public debate.

The fact that our politicians and our politics—at the elite level—still centres around newspapers and broadcasters is unfortunate, but they are the people who will have to adapt or die. The power of these outdated and outmoded ‘guardians’ is being challenged by individuals and groups that are more open, more energetic and much better informed. Those in the know were recently able to watch history in the making with the definitive EU exit plan for Britain—Flexcit—taking shape online, before their very eyes. This represents nothing less than a revolution in public policy-making.

Hearteningly, the reach and authority of the legacy media is least amongst the youngest. Politicians are barking up the wrong tree if they think that votes for 16-year-olds or any other gimmick that panders to the “youth vote” is going to save them.

The “establishment”—to use a very vexed piece of terminology—are right to be concerned. There are millions of people who are waking up to the fact that they have no need of a media whose purpose is not to inform, educate or entertain, but to tell them how and what to think. Far too much contemporary commentary consists of inviting people to reaffirm prior assertions.

The moment when I finally decided that these fossils are beyond resuscitation occured while watching Evan Davis interview Conservative MP Owen Paterson on the BBC’s flagship political review show (ha!) Newsnight.

There is a very insidious narrative being promoted from the first question onwards. That is, the assumption that the politician is trying to deceive. The apparent refusal to give a straight answer to a straightforward question is then used as evidence of same. While scepticism should be welcomed and encouraged in all circumstances, in this particular case, I happen to know that when Paterson tells Davis that he is “missing the point” or that “I am distinguishing between the political and the economic” because the situation is not as simple as the BBC reporter would like to portray, the politician is correct and the journalist is behaving like an arse.

I am everyday more and more convinced that the ability of the legacy media to shape political debate to suit its own narrow agendas is even more corrosive than the undoubted inadequacy and self-serving nature of many of our politicians. The BBC, which dominates the legacy media landscape, has a special responsibility, one that it has repeatedly failed to fulfill. The Wilson Report, from 2005, criticises the corporation for reporting on EU-related matters only in terms of “splits”, a pattern that continues to this day.

Sadly, the rest of the legacy media is little different. Everything is a biff-bam personality contest. Those who rely upon the British press to keep them up-to-date will therefore be universally misinformed. The shallow narcissists who report on these matters lack the intellectual architecture to accurately describe, let alone analyse the situation. Their agenda-driven nonsense is of no value. Turn off, tune in, get involved.

The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism

In my previous post, I commented on the fact that David Cameron is not in control of the EU “reform” timetable. He is, in fact, the willing puppet of external forces. A new treaty is in the works and Mr Cameron has little option but to follow the lead of the European Commission. While the legacy media prattle on about “renegotiation”, preparations for a new settlement that will further integrate the member governments of the Eurozone and seek to “park” the “British problem” progress largely uncommented upon.

The focus of legacy media attention for the time being is the perceived (and actual) “split” within what a disproportionately large number of newspaper reporters, leader writers and political commentators are calling the “Out” campaign. This misleading designation matters. The proposition on the ballot paper will be “leave” and, according to the Code of Practice issued and enforced by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the press “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information” and “whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact”. Lord Justice Leveson’s praise of the legacy media’s “powerful reputation for accuracy” still has the power to elicit hollow laughter, even years after the event.

In many ways, this is akin to the policy of referring to the EU as “Europe”. Controlling language is a means of controlling thought, as George Orwell describes in Politics and The English Language. If the electorate associates leaving the supranational treaty organisation known as the European Union (EU) with “leaving” the geographical continent or broad civilisational dispensation associated with the word “Europe” then the proposition is instantly rendered laughable, silly, kookish. There is no need to actively argue a case because the “framing” privileges one perspective and disprivileges another.

The source of the flare up that has so interested the legacy media appears to be a disagreement within UKIP concerning which of the putative candidates to lead the official “leave” campaign should be more closely affiliated with the party. Both Faragistes and Carswellians say that UKIP should work with “all groups” campaigning for Brexit, but it does not take Brain of Britain to see that the party is fundamentally split. While Party Leader, Nigel Farage, has given support to millionaire donor Arron Bank’s Leave.EU organisation, Douglas Carswell, the party’s only Westminister MP, and Suzanne Evans, Deputy Party Leader, favour the (not yet officially launched) Campaign To Leave, the brain-child of Business for Britain CEO, Matthew Elliott. I have already discussed the shortcomings of the Leave.EU group, so let us now turn our attention to Matthew Elliott and Business for Britain.

The “About Us” section of the Business for Britain website states:

Business for Britain exists to give a voice to the large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see fundamental changes made to the terms of our EU membership.

Got that? “[F]undamental changes… to the terms of [Britain’s] EU membership”.

Under the heading, “Do you agree with us?”—also published in the “About Us” section of the Business for Britain website—the organisation asks (itself) a series of questions. One of these is: “You talk about renegotiation, but isn’t your campaign really about leaving the EU?” To which the organisation responds:

What unites supporters of Business for Britain is an agreement that the status quo in our relationship is not working and that the Government is right to seek a new deal for the EU and the UK’s terms of membership. Instead of pushing the debate to the extreme corners of In vs Out, we should be having a sensible discussion about what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements. Resisting renegotiation and denying people a say will push public sentiment further towards Out and fast-track an EU exit.

Characterising those who advocate that Britain leave the EU as “extreme” and asserting that “sensible discussion” be limited to “what is right and what is wrong in our current arrangements” is hardly consistent with the putative aim of leading the “leave” campaign in an EU referendum. By contrast, the Business for Britain website makes repeated references to “negotiation”, “renegotiation” and “fundamental reform” of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Even Matthew Elliott’s introduction to Business for Britain’s report, Change or Go: How Britain would gain influence and prosper outside an unreformed EU, is focused on “[setting] out what changes should be sought from renegotiation”.

The options that will appear on the ballot paper are “remain”—based on whatever “reforms” or promises of reform the Prime Minister may or may not secure—or “leave” the EU. Based upon the procedures specified by the Electoral Commission for the Scottish Referendum, which most people anticipate being broadly similar for the EU Referendum, it is doubtful whether the position staked out by Business for Britain and its CEO, Matthew Elliott, would meet the condition that the lead campaign organisation “adequately represent those campaigning for the outcome”. Neither “maybe” nor “wait and see” are an option.

Moreover, Business for Britain’s support for “renegotiation” and “fundamental reform” suggests that the organisation may even support the “new relationship” that Mr Cameron will present to voters prior to the EU referendum vote. The official lead campaign organisation for the “leave” camp switching sides in the midst of the contest would be major embarrassment, to put it mildy.

In Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four there is a book that is supposedly written by Emmanuel Goldstein—public enemy number one in Oceania and the target of the “two minute hate”—called, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, which represents the negation of the ideology that legitimises Big Brother and The Party. In the later part of the story, Winston Smith learns from O’Brien, the sadistic torturer who works for The Ministry of Love and ultimately sends Winston to Room 101, that Goldstein’s book is, in fact, a fraud, written by The Party to confuse, distract and entrap would-be revolutionaries.

Now, imagine a “leave” campaign, led by Matthew Elliott and his Campaign To Leave. The organisation’s arguments about reducing “red-tape” and cutting costs are enough to convince a majority of the electorate that Britain should leave the EU. With only months remaining before the vote in October 2017, victory for the “leave” campaign looks assured. Then, unexpectedly, after months of negative headlines and French intransigence, Pinocchio Cameron returns from the Autumn Council with an offer for “fundamental treaty change” that addresses all of the issues highlighted by the leaders of the “leave” grouping during the campaign. Whether Elliott sides with the government and recommends that the British public vote to “remain” in the EU would be immaterial at that stage. The real damage would have been done.

My question for you and, indeed, for the Electoral Commission: Is the leader of an organisation that characterises those who advocate that Britain leave the EU as “extreme” and who is on the record as saying, “If the Government gets a two-tier Europe, we’re very much in”—Matthew Elliott, CEO of Business for Britain—an appropriate person to lead the official “leave” campaign?

Coming Attractions

Plans are afoot for the most spectacular piece of political theatre of our lifetimes. There are those who would like the programme to remain a secret until the curtain rises on opening night, but—courtesy of EUReferendum.com—we here at Independent Britain have been fortunate enough to acquire a back-stage pass during the vital preparatory stages, and we think it only right that the British public, who will, after all, be footing the bill for this extravaganza, be allowed a special sneak preview.

First, allow me to introduce you to the dramatis personæ. In the lead role of Pinocchio is our very own Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron. He longs to be a real national leader, but before the Blue Fairy will grant him his wish, she says that he must first learn to listen to his conscience and stop telling lies. Pulling Cameron’s strings is European Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker, who—playing the part of the power-hungry Stromboli—daily threatens to chop his captive into firewood should Cameron put a foot wrong during his trademark rendition of ‘I’ve Got No Strings’.

As is clear from the preceding description, Cameron is not in control of events. He is dancing to another man’s tune, but he knows that it is essential for his political survival that he successfully convince the British public that he is setting his own agenda. Should the British public suspect otherwise, the elaborate illusion, he has so painstakingly sought to maintain, will be broken. To that end, Cameron will be aided by the legacy media, who double as The Chorus, which, even though they are not up on stage with the main players, are nevertheless an important part of the show.

To understand the intricate plotting, we must look to the Fundamental Law of the European Union, published in January 2013, and the Five Presidents Report, published in June 2015. Cameron’s strings are, in fact, being pulled by the supranational (“above the nation”) EU institutions that produced these documents.

One of the key phrases from the Five Presidents Report, echoed in Jean-Claude Junker’s State of the Union address is as follows:

“To prepare the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2, the Commission will present a White Paper in spring 2017 assessing progress made in Stage 1 and outlining the next steps needed, including measures of a legal nature to complete EMU in Stage 2”.

The contents of this White Paper will determine the nature of Cameron’s ploy. Once he knows the plan, he can pretend that, contrary to all of the naysayers who said that ‘it couldn’t be done’, he, David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury, has only gone and bloody well reformed the entire EU, forging a “special relationship” for Britain in a marvellous, all-singing, all-dancing “two-tier” (nobody say “two-speed”) EU. This new relationship, Cameron will announce, will not only benefit Britain, but also the EU Member States who are part of the eurozone, as well as the rest of the non-eurozone outer-core, which will now be “protected” from decisions taken by Kerneuropa or the ‘inner core’.

This is when we will see Cameron’s nose begin to grow. But, strange as it may seem, not everybody will notice, such is the power of the office of Prime Minister and the “prestige” of the legacy media Chorus. The details that are now emerging from the “renegotiation”—Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, says that “serious talks” will not begin (what have they been doing to date?) until after the Polish general elections later this year—indicate that Cameron embarked upon this entire EU “reform” process without the faintest idea of how he was going to achieve his stated aims. He has changed his strategy at least twice—initially hoping to “handbag” a European Council Convention, then, when Mrs Merkel put a stop to that, changing tack to focus on Freedom of Movement, with the aim of agreeing a “mini treaty” via the “simplified procedure” outlined in Article 48 of the Treaty of Lisbon, only to be rebuffed once again when the “colleages” decided that it was time to fire the starting gun on “full-on” treaty change.

After following a long and winding path, Cameron’s referendum playbook now looks something like the following:

  • Spring 2017 – European Commission White Paper
  • 1st July 2017 – UK European Council presidency begins
  • late August 2017 – Informal Council (called by the UK)
  • early October 2017 – Conservative Party Conference
  • mid October 2017 – Autumn Council
  • late October 2017 – referendum

So, just as we are getting worked up for the referendum, scheduled for the later part of 2017, the Commission comes out with what is essentially a template for a new treaty. Given that the UK presidency of the European Council begins in July 2017, it is logical to speculate that Cameron will choose to hold an Informal Council—an “extravaganza” that can be turned into a kind of “pagent” during which Cameron puts his demands for a “new relationship” to the “colleagues”. The other EU Member States will then be sent back to their respective capitals to think about what Cameron has “proposed”, while Cameron proceeds to the Conservative Party Conference where he performs his Hard Man of Europe routinue, saying that he has laid down his conditions and now we must wait to receive the answer at the Autumn Council.

Except that the “answer” is pre-arranged. Britain will be offered a “looser” form of EU membership that keeps us in, while also allowing the members of the eurozone to take the next steps on the road to political union.

Cameron will pretend that this was all his idea—or, at the very least, that it was inspired by his “renegotiation”—when, the fact of the matter is that any attempts that there might have been at renegotiation have been a complete failure, as leading EU federalist and Lib Dem former MEP, Andrew Duff, indicates in this report. The treaty that finally emerges will look a lot like the Fundamental Law of the European Union, partly authored by Andrew Duff, albeit with a few superficial changes (the Germans are apparently not keen on the idea of a “common treasury”, so maybe that will be renamed…). But the essentials will remain the same: more power for the Commission and the other supranational EU institutions, less power for the national governments of the Member States. The people, who theoretically lend their power to the nation-state governments, completely excluded.

Kerneuropa, from which Britain is and always will be excluded, want the “British problem” parked, and their favoured bay is “associate membership”. Cameron will have his work cut out trying to sell this to the British people because it is almost identical to a proposal that several previous British governments have rejected, on the basis that Britain must be “at the heart of Europe” in order to have “influence” at the “top table”. Seeing as being at the the heart of “Europe” (actually, the EU) now means joining the euro, those who wish to remain in the EU have a choice: either we accept “second-class country” status in a “two-speed Europe”, where the destination is still “ever closer union” and we are in the slow lane, or we submerge our nation-state democracy into the new supranational political state and we join the euro. Voting to remain in the EU means that inertia will eventually drag us into the euro, regardless of whether we agree to accept “second-class country” status in the interim.

Fortunately, for us, there is another way—we can vote to leave—and that opens up fantastic opportunities for enhancing our national democracy and engaging with international partners through intergovernmental agreements that confer mutual benefit. What that ‘grand vision’ looks like and how it can be achieved will be the subject of subsequent posts.

This is How the EU Works!

I have to admit to being bowled over by the legacy media “reaction” to the vote on mandatory ‘voluntary’ refugee quotas for the EU Member States that participate in the Common European Asylum System (CEAS)*. The semi-literate Guardian piece is parochially concerned with what it describes as Britain’s “refusal” to participate in the programme. The BBC’s ‘Europe’ correspondent reports the following:

Criticism is already ringing out from countries that voted against the relocation scheme, but under EU law they are now obliged to take part. It is highly unusual – unprecedented, really – for a majority vote to be used in a situation like this, which involves basic issues of national sovereignty.

But the European Commission says it is determined to enforce what was agreed. What’s not yet clear is what will happen if any country simply refuses to comply – and that has certainly been the suggestion from some capitals.

Will financial sanctions be sufficient? It is another sign that this crisis is testing European unity like no other.

This betrays a stunning level of ignorance. The proposal was agreed by Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) in the Council of Ministers. This is the essence of supranational (“above the nation”) treaty governance. The vetoes that heretofore existed have been progressively removed (over the course of many, many years) from the Member States—the few remaining vetoes that the Member States had preserved until recently fell in November 2014 as per the provisions specificed in the Treaty of Lisbon.

This process of engrenage and the supranational governance it empowers is what grants EU institutions the authority to override the democratic nation-states that consent to become (and remain) EU Member States. It is supranationalism that provides the impetus for ever deeper integration; ever more power for the Commission—and the other EU institutions—and the consequent diminution of power among the governments of the Member States, let alone the Parliaments of the Member States, to say nothing of the people who vote in those countries’ ‘democratic’ elections. What did these politicians think that they were signing their countries up to?

The smaller EU member nations are particularly badly served due to the “weighting” that is applied to the EU system of QMV in the Council of Ministers and the European Council, based, as it is, upon the size of the voting country’s population as a proportion of the Union as a whole. In short, it is no good bleating about it now, crying that the EU “forced through” these measures, as Open Europe asserts. This is precisely what the democratic governments agreed to when they signed the treaty that gave their assent to those three, seemingly very innocent words, “ever closer union”.

Supranational governance means national subordination, which is not the same as intergovernmental co-operation. The difference between the two is, in fact, vast.

If we are to rectify this sitution, we have to first recognise that the ‘migrant crisis’ was partly caused by the EU’s outdated asylum policy (See: here and here). We need to think seriously about how the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol can be amended to address modern realities. Then, we need to fundamentally re-think how we approach this entire area of policy (See: here, here and here), which means breaking out of the petty, inward-looking, miserly attitude that has mired us in ‘little Europe’, to embrace innovative, future-oriented, global solutions to what is, undoubtedly, a global problem.

* Sidenote: Britain previously negotiated a derogation—together with Ireland and Denmark—to participate selectively in this area of policy. In other words, we have an opt-in. I do not expect Mr Cameron to use it. To give the Prime Minister credit, he has remained relatively steadfast, in the face of an unpleasant legacy media barrage and luvvie sob-fest demanding that ‘something/more’ be done. Rather than kow-tow to an extremely vocal but not necessarily representative lobby, Cameron has instead made the case that Britain currently spends more than any other EU member country on foreign aid (second only to the United States, globally), a large amount of which contributes towards funding the camps—in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraqi Kurdistan—where these refugees are sheltered, as near as is practical to the homes to which they hope to return. Furthermore, insisting that Britain will only accept refugees who have applied for asylum through internationally recognised channels is only sensible).

A Response to Tim Farron

Today, the new Lib Dem leader, Tim Farron, appeared on the BBC. Here is part of what he said:

Britain would be much poorer, much less relevant, much less important in the world, much less safe, if we left the European Union. There is loads wrong with the Commission, but there is everything right with us being part of the European Union. The risk to British jobs— if you think that 100 of the world’s top 250 companies have London as their headquarters, for one reason really, and that is because we are in the EU. The number of jobs that would be lost, the prosperity lost, our relevance and standing in the world would be massively diminished if we left the EU, which is why it is so frustrating that both David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn are sitting on the fence and toying with Britain leaving the European Union. We will be absolutely 100 percent clear, it is the most patriotic thing you can do in the next year, to support Britain being in the EU.

First of all, I am massively thankful to Tim Farron for using the correct terminology, referring to the supranational treaty organisation of which Britain is a member as the European Union and the EU, rather than the tedious, childish insistence of his fellows in the legacy media and the three main political parties of referring to the EU as “Europe”, regardless of the number of times that they are corrected. Farron deserves praise for that, if nothing else.

Addressing the content of his comments, Farron does not cite any evidence to support his assertions. The assumption that voters will simply accept what political leaders say betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of referendums. In our “representative democracy” Parliament decides, whereas in a referendum, the politicians, unable to settle the matter in parliament, abrogate responsibility to the voters and it is for the British electorate to decide and give direction to government.

In other words, bald assertions are not going to cut it. We are going to need to see some evidence.

To address each of Mr Farron’s assertions in order:

1) “Britain would be much poorer”—Britain is the sixth richest economy on the planet. Traditions of “freedom under law”, commerce and trade reach back centuries into our history. Trade and co-operation with our continental European allies, as well as with the rest of the world, would not end should Britain decide to leave the EU. Single Market participation would be negotiated as part of our Article 50 exit settlement, with an “off-the-shelf” agreement such as the EFTA/EEA or “Norway option” (for short), providing a short-term solution for effecting (relatively) rapid withdrawal within the two-year time frame laid out in the Treaty on European Union.

2) “much less relevant, much less important in the world”—I shall address these two points together, seeing as they are related. Contrary to the Nick Clegg line about “fax democracy”, Britain would enjoy more power and influence outside the EU, negotiating with our partners at a global level on the intergovernmental bodies where international trading standards are actually agreed. The WTO, UN and UNECE, to name but three, “hand down” standards to the EU, which then packages and implements them as regulations and directives. If Mr Farron would care to explain why 1/8th of a say in the Council of Ministers is preferable to full self-representation on these global bodies, and how this subordinate status makes Britain ‘more relevant’ and ‘more important’ in the world, I would like to hear his answer.

3) “much less safe”—I am unsure what Mr Farron is even referring to here. It cannot be a reference to the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, and Rapid Reaction Force, because his parliamentary colleague, Mr Clegg, was good enough to inform us that plans for EU involvement in military affairs is a “dangerous fantasy”. Seriously though, Britain spends more money than most countries to maintain our military capabilities at a high level; Britain is also one of just five nation-states with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. It would be helpful if Mr Farron could clarify: in what sense would leaving the EU make Britain “much less safe”?

4) Then he invokes the ‘risk to British jobs’, asserting that “100 of the world’s top 250 companies have London as their headquarters, for one reason really, and that is because we are in the EU”. This is simply false. If, proximity to EU institutions was the sole determining factor in where these businesses are based, all of them would be headquartered in Brussels. There are lots of businesses—big and small—based in Britain because we are a law-governed democracy with functional institutions and a long history of respect for the rule of law. Get it straight, Tim, that would not change should we choose to leave the EU.

Mr Farron may also be referring to our participation in the Single Market, but as I expect to reherse many, many more times before the outcome of the referendum is decided, access to and even participation in the Single Market is not dependent upon EU-centric political integration. Indeed, we would play an even more influential role in setting Single Market rules and world trade standards outside of the EU, as already explained.

5) “We will be absolutely 100 percent clear, it is the most patriotic thing you can do in the next year, to support Britain being in the EU”… It is hard to know how to respond to this. I could quote Einstein talking about patriotism being the “last refuge of the scoundrel”, but I am a fairly patriotic person so that would probably be disingenuous. I will simply ask, what is patriotic about the desire for Britain’s national democracy, which, however flawed, represents the majority will of the British people, to be subordinated to supranational EU institutions and the majority will of foreign governments?

The Don’t Knows

Message discipline will be crucial if the “leave” campaign is going to successfully convince the British people that the future of their country lies oustide the EU. In that respect, TheKnow, which aspires to provide voters with “the facts” regarding Britain’s EU membership is (to put it politely) an uneasy ally. By way of example, TheKnow recently published this article, which I reproduce here in full, interleaved with comments of my own.

‘What will the UK leaving the EU mean for our country’s jobs?’ The key question surrounding the Brexit debate. There is plentiful evidence to more than suggest that businesses, including large multinationals, will continue to invest and employ in the UK if the country were to leave the EU.

I would say that the “key question surrounding the Brexit debate” is ‘Who should govern Britain?’ The EU’s supranational (“above the nation”) institutions are poorly suited to the common law traditions of this country. The intergovernmental model favoured by the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the rest of the world suits our form of governance much better. Indeed, the inward investment that Britain attracts is at least partially attributable to our political and judicial system, based upon the precept of “freedom under law”, which the EU tacks against.

Understandably, a flurry of stats and theories has not always provided the necessary reassurance to those who like the idea of the UK leaving the EU, but are fearful of the consequences. Only the employers can correct that concern, and that’s exactly what they are starting to do.

It is no business of business how the British choose to govern their own country. Employers who seek to influence the debate, one way or the other, should be told to ‘mind their own…’ This is an opportunity for the British people to correct an historic mistake. The assurance that Britain will continue to trade and co-operate with our EU allies, along with the rest of the world, should be sufficient to amelioriate business concerns.

Moreover, the Flexcit plan, written by Dr Richard North, outlines clear procedures for Britain’s EU withdrawal. As part of the Article 50 process, legislated for in the Treaty on European Union (as ammended by the Treaty of Lisbon), Britain and the EU will have two clear years to arrive at a negotiated settlement. Owing to the complexity involved in unravelling 40 years of political and economic integration, North recommends that, in the short term, Britain repatriate the entire acquis (body of EU law) and apply to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in order to participate in the Single Market via the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. I highly recommend reading over the entire document or, at the very least, the condensed version.

In response to questions on the potential impact of Brexit, Chairman and Managing Director of Vauxhall Motors, Tim Tozer said yesterday, “whatever the outcome, that won’t affect the way we look at the way we invest in this country and run our business within it.”

As for [sic] as Tozer is concerned, it would be ‘unthinkable’ for the UK to not follow up the access to the common market it currently enjoys as an EU member with an expansive trade agreement, one that stops far short of political integration. Post exit, it will be just as easy for the UK to buy and sell goods and services with the rest of Europe as it ever was. As a consequence, there is no disincentive for companies to set up in the UK, let alone an incentive for existing businesses to leave.

These ‘reasurances’ are worthless unless you can explain how we arrive at this new relationship. The “remains” have just as many businessmen (if not more) that can be called upon should we grant these people such undeserved prominence and authority. The legal certainty of an Article 50 negotiation and the assurance of continuity guaranteed by repatriating the entire acquis and adopting an “off-the-shelf” agreement, in the short term, is much more credible than relying upon the “prestige” of senior business figures.

3 million jobs may be dependent on trade with rest of Europe, but the notion that those jobs would be at risk if the UK were to leave the EU is baseless [only if we have a coherent exit plan]. Just look at the US, the UK’s biggest trading partner and a country with whom it has no free trade agreement [trade is an exclusive EU “competence”; as EU member states, neither Britain nor France, nor Germany, nor Poland, nor Slovakia, etc. has a single “free trade agreement” with any other country. Trade agreements are negotiated by the European Commission on behalf of all the EU member states]. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of the disputed 3 million jobs are also dependent on trade with the rest of the world, markets, like the US where the UK nor the rest of the EU does not currently benefit from preferential trade access [sic – this is not a sentence, ed.].

Tozer’s comments were echoed a day earlier by Nissan Europe Chairman, Paul Willcox. Faced with similar questions over the EU, Willcox emphasized the outstanding performance of Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, “probably the most productive car plant in Western Europe.”

Wilcox [sic – you had it spelled right the first and second time] cited the strength of manufacturing in the the North East, helpfully broadening the debate. Scaremongering over the potential loss of jobs has sidelined the fact that over the past few years, the UK has created more jobs than the rest of Europe put together. The North East is one of several success stories across the land, contrasting markedly with the rest of the EU.

The question over leaving the EU is not just about protecting existing jobs, but capitalizing on the country’s huge untapped potential. Brexit means new trade opportunities with the rest of the world, and re-regulating the economy to make life easier for businesses so that they can employ more staff. TheKnow.EU takes a positive perspective, and not without good reason.

The relevant point about regulation is that the EU currently speaks on our behalf in the global forums where these matters are actually agreed. Promises to change the regulatory environment are meaningless without specifying ‘what’ you will change and ‘how’ you plan to change it. The decision to leave the EU is so much bigger than all of this and is fundamentally about principles not details.

Final note to TheKnow: hire a proof-reader.

Power to the People

People are so accustomed to accepting the authority of those who have power over them that the mere exercise of power, especially their own, comes to seem strange, distasteful, even unseemly, to them. This “learned helplessness”—a less acute form of the condition known as Stockholm Syndrome—afflicts very large numbers of people in our society. However, once it is pointed out to them that the sense of powerlessness that they accept as a matter of course is, in fact, learned, the possibility of them asserting their own sovereign will becomes a real possibility.

Referendums are a wonderful teaching opportunity. The politicians and the political parties have failed to resolve the issue of Britain’s relationship with the EU, so the decision now falls to us, the voters, to instruct the politicians. We are accustomed to being told what to think by politicians and the legacy media. We are less accustomed to making our voices heard.

Much as the British do not take well to being bossed about, there is also a deeply conformist streak in our national character that inclines people to “grin and bear” unwelcome or uncomfortable circumstances far longer than many other peoples would tolerate. There are positive and negative aspects to this, but now that we are all going to be given the same say as the representatives we elect to Parliament—one vote—now is not the time to look to our superiors for direction. This issue needs to resolved between us.

The politicians and the legacy media have their reasons for favouring what will be presented as the “status quo”—continued EU membership. They will not, for the most part, comment on the fact that the status quo is a phantasm. The EU is and always was about “ever closer union”. The members of the eurozone are planning to integrate still further in order to solidify common fiscal and banking policies that will effectively create a new political state. The British people have no desire to join the euro, so this means remaining in the “outer core”, excluded from Kerneuropa, without a seat at the “top table” of EU policy-making and with less influence than is currently the case even today.

The powers-that-be will attempt to frame Britain’s options in the EU referendum as a choice between a “renegotiated settlement” that addresses most of the problems so frequently rehersed in the legacy media versus a great leap backwards towards isolation and introversion. I trust that most people will have the wit to see that they are having smoke blown in their eyes. The referendum is not about whether we will continue to trade and co-operate with our European allies and countries beyond the EU. Of course we will. The referendum is about the form that we think those relationships should take—supranational or intergovernmental.

The vision that I have is of an independent country that trades and co-operates with partners all around the world, participating in intergovernmental forums at a global level, making arguments and proposing solutions that advance the British national interest and the values that we the British people hold to be true. Decoupling national governance and our policy-making framework from the supranational EU will not be an easy or even a particularly quick process—40 years of political and economic integration will not and should not be undone overnight—but it is essential if the British electorate truly wish to have the final say over the future direction of their country and the people to whom we lend the authority to govern.

Remaining inside the EU means accepting that the “final say” should be determined not by the voters of this country but by the majority will of foreign governments.

Supranational Subordination Versus Intergovernmental Co-operation

Supranational literally means “above the nation”. There are almost no international institutions that operate on the supranational model. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, there is one.

There are legitimate criticisms that can be levelled at the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but to mention these intergovernmental organisations in the same breath as the European Union (EU) is deeply misleading. Intergovernmental co-operation is the foundation upon which much of what we call “globalisation” is built. Your ability to post a letter in England to an address in Australia, in the expectation that both the package and its contents will arrive intact, untampered with and within a reasonable time frame, depends upon a series of agreements brokered between national governments as far back as the 19th century. Today, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) is responsible for managing the standards that the member governments agree.

Wikipedia provides the following précis of the organisation’s activities:

Standards are important prerequisites for effective postal operations and for interconnecting the global network. The UPU’s Standards Board develops and maintains a growing number of international standards to improve the exchange of postal-related information between postal operators. It also promotes the compatibility of UPU and international postal initiatives. The organization works closely with postal handling organizations, customers, suppliers and other partners, including various international organizations.

This remarkable feat was accomplished without a single supranational institution to supervise, corral or otherwise override the member governments. The standards that make the international postal delivery service function efficiently, to the extent that we take it completely for granted—and are rightly discontented when the service fails to fulfil the standards for excellence that we routinely expect—all emerged from institutions founded on the intergovernmental model.

By comparison, in practically every area of policy-making and regulatory supervision—previously the sole preserve of nation-state democracies—in which the EU’s supranational institutions are granted responsibility, these assumptions are reversed. We expect the EU to be wasteful, inefficient and incompetent and are surprised when anything with which the EU is associated works with even a modicum of efficiency and/or competency. The wholly inadequate response of the EU institutions to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean and now Eastern Europe, which was partially created by the EU’s reckless asylum policy, is a case in point. The ecological disaster that the Common Fisheries Policy has created in the North Sea. The rape of living marine resources that EU policy facilitates in developing countries, especially in Africa. The wholesale dumping of cheap agricultural goods on developing markets and the Common External Tariff, which prevents African farmers from competing in highly subsidised EU markets.

The list goes on and on and on and on. Meanwhile, the benefits of intergovernmental co-operation and trade in goods, services and ideas continues to benefit us all.

So, what is it that distinguishes the supranational EU from the intergovernmental UPU?… I joke, but it is not as if the UPU is an isolated example. There are hundreds of similarly constituted bodies, most of them unheard of outside of their industry-specific niche. Vehicle regulations are governed by the WP.29. Global food safety standards are governed by the Codex Alimentarius committee. The International Telecommunications Union governs world standards in the telecoms field.

These international institutions, and others, quietly, without any of the political torpor that is part and parcel of the supranational EU, manage the technical standards which allow us to, once again, take it completely for granted that a set of AA batteries manufactured in Japan will fit a smoke alarm manufactured in Germany. These intergovernmental bodies are where Britain, the fifth largest economy on the planet, could and should be playing a major role, rather than accepting, as our politicians say that we must, that we should remain inside the EU because 1/8th of a say in the Council of Ministers is good enough.

Stop Firing Footguns


JavaScript is the programming language that developers use to build interactive websites. This odd little language has enormous expressive power, but it also has many very poorly implemented features. This is not surprising. The first version of JavaScript was developed in just nine days and, by admission of its chief software architect, Brendan Eich, the language contains a large number of what Eich calls “footguns”.

A footgun, for anyone who does not know, is a feature that you use to shoot yourself in the foot. Unsurprisingly, Eich recommends that developers avoid using these features and, after several years of painstaking work, many of the most egregious (though not all) footguns have now been removed from the JavaScript standard. Want that “eurosceptics” could learn the same lesson. But what, you may (justifiably) ask, has this got to do with restoring self-government to the British Isles? I shall tell you.

Arguably the most prominent of the numerous campaigning organisations advocating that Britons vote to leave the EU is TheKnow.eu, which recently launched a snazzy new website. Sadly, TheKnow is gleefully firing every footgun on the “eurosceptic” range, plus a few more that were thought to have been safely locked away in a store cupboard that only grown-ups could reach.

The page of the website headlined, “The Facts”, is comprised of six sections: regulation, global influence, global trade, further integration, immigration and cost. This post will take a closer look at just the first of those pages—regulation—and analyse just one of the assertions made by TheKnow.

  • “Leaving the EU would free Britain up from the masses of red tape dished out by Brussels, saving billions of pounds across UK industry (which in turn would mean lower prices for consumers).”

Whinging about EU “red tape” is a dangerous red herring for anyone who wishes for Britain to leave the EU. The overwhelming majority of regulations “passed down” from Brussels actually originate within global bodies where rules are agreed between member governments. Globalisation creates the need for global governance and institutions such as the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and Codex Alimentarius now supersede the role that the EU once played in harmonising regulatory standards. In that sense, the EU really is the past, a relic of a bygone era, not suited to the governance of a modern nation-state or the interdependent world in which we all live.

Nobody sensible argues that British industry should be unregulated, so why is TheKnow crowing about the hypothetical cost savings that would accrue to British consumers by reducing the “masses of red tape dished out by Brussels”? When new banking regulations were being negotiated at EU level in 2012, Britain argued for tougher (higher) capital reserve requirements than the European Commission was willing to countenance. What we need is not less regulation but the democratic means to make better regulation. Shackled to the EU, Britain is denied a full voice on vitally important intergovernmental bodies, where the likes of Suriname and Benin and Chad and Western Sahara have full self-representation. Why should The Mother of Parliaments accept a compromise position within the EU28 and a measly 1/8th of a voice in the Council of Ministers when we could deal directly with our international partners on the European continent and elsewhere?

Even outside of the EU, Britain would maintain “regulatory convergence” in manufactured goods with our European allies in order to continue vital cross-border trade and because most of the standards that govern these matters do not originate at the sub-regional EU level. Little Europe is too small for a global player like Great Britain; we need to break out of the EU straightjacket and rejoin the rest of the world.

Those of us who wish to live in an independent Britain know that judicious use of regulation makes products safer, more efficient and easier to use. Remaining within the stuffy confines of the EU, while the rest of the world moves on, denies us the opportunity to have real influence in the forums where it really matters. If TheKnow could quit firing footguns, we might stand a chance of making that message heard.

A Standalone Reserve

After lunch, Dr Richard North returned to the podium to deliver what was undoubtedly the most inspiring talk of the day; the culmination of all the groundwork laid in the previous sessions.

As a supplement to the “conventional campaign”, which an establishment organisation like the Electoral Commission will expect and, indeed, demand to see, the RPG also intends to mobilise “something special and separate” that “will win the real battle for us”. This campaign component depends intensely upon “understanding the strategy and developing the tactics” to make the strategy work.

The primary role of this “reserve structure” is to back-up the conventional “leave” campaign and rescue it from the inherent failures already identified—specifically, the lack of strategic co-ordination among the various campaign groups and the absence of a consistent message. To illustrate the point, Dr North turned our attention to the 1964 British film classic, Zulu, which he says, “illustrates important campaigning principles”. “When defending a perimeter”, he explains, “the superficial logic says that you put all of your troops on the perimeter to protect the perimeter from being breached”. Counter-intuitively, Lt Chard, the officer who commands the battle, does exactly the opposite, “taking troops away from the perimeter to form, under Bromhead’s (Michael Caine’s) control, a flying platoon, which is separate from the battle, not engaging [the enemy] at all”.

When the thrust comes and the Zulus break through the perimeter, then you hear: “Clear the field of fire! Clear the field of fire!” The only role of the troops guarding the perimeter, it is revealed, is to “get out of the bloody way” because the flying platoon, which has now had the chance to observe the enemy and adjust to the direction of the attack is ready to intervene. “They form two lines”, Dr North informs us. “The survivors from the perimeter join the front line, and then they walk, alternating fire, to the cadence, “Reload! Rear rank… fire!”, as [the troops] gradually recover the ground back to the perimeter”.

This memorable scene illustrates the principle of committing your reserves. “You do not expect to hold the enemy”, Dr North remarks. “You allow the enemy to make their move, you identify the thrust and then you commit your reserves at the most decisive point, where the shock effect and the precision and the focus is designed to damage the enemy mortally and then you recover the ground—that is our strategic thinking—and this, unlike so many other things, is actually doable”.

All well and good, you may be thinking, but what does this have to do with winning a referendum campaign? There are, in fact, more parallels than are probably readily apparent. “The very interesting thing about a reserve”, Dr North affirms, “is that they have very limited objectives—and because the objectives are limited, they are easy to understand, they are easy to train for, and they are easy to recognise and to execute”. Moreover, this can be done with very small numbers of people. A classic misnomer in the superficial analysis of revolutions is that they are mass movements. Invariably, revolutions are engineered and executed, in the early stages, by remarkably small numbers of people. “It is dedicated, focused players that do the damage”, Dr North notes. “Not big, mass movements”.

Indeed, a referendum “is analogous to a battle in the sense that you are focusing all of your attention on a single event with a very clearly defined outcome”, Dr North outlines. “Furthermore, unlike the Zulu battle—[we are not firing guns, but delivering messages—which means that] we are able to use multiple channels of ‘attack’, including tools like social media, and the Internet, in general, to communicate our messages”.

So, what are these “highly focused, limited objectives”? The first objective: intelligence gathering—produce usable intelligence and then communicate it to the people who need it. The second objective: recruit and train people—the EU “is a very complex subject and none of us are capable of picking it all up spontaneously without guidance”. However, it is vital that what people learn is “a core of knowledge and not a core of mythology”. The third objective: community building—the reason why we buy into what the legacy media tells us is because those outlets have “prestige”. The Psychology of the Crowd, written by Gustave Le Bon, explains how prestige guides people’s perception of information—and the only reliable way in which you counter prestige is through personal affiliation and trust. “The idea is to break out of the traditional eurosceptic community to reach out to ordinary people who are not politically engaged, do not really understand the issues, but are amenable to being informed, if it is done in the right way”.

I will quote from the final section of the talk at length:

“Once we have those core objectives, once we know where the thrust is coming from, we need to neutralise the thrust—stop it dead in its tracks. So, in comes Cameron with associate membership. We destroy it. We say, this is a load of garbage, this is just a two-speed Europe and the intention is still ever closer union, nothing has changed, you are being led up the garden path. But that is not enough. We then have to come out with an alternative, and there is a further rider to that, we also have to specify a means for achieving that alternative, which demonstrates to people that it is doable and that it is safe…

“The beauty of all this is that now we have the Internet and this marvellous ability to communicate with anyone in the world at the drop of a hat at no cost, so we don’t need formal structures. We can develop cellular structures of overlapping, cross-linking cells, so that you can feed information into your core, which is enough to produce a dynamic that ripples out through your contacts and very quickly becomes an established meme. That is almost entirely reliant upon the Internet, but 90 percent of the households in the UK have Internet access…

“That’s what it’s about. It’s about networking and using a cascade system where you have a core which then cascades the information down. But that will only work with the one thing that eurosceptics are totally missing: message discipline. We have got to agree on a message and then we have got to focus on delivering that message when it counts. It is no good popping out of the redoubt, lining up and then all firing in different directions. The only way that picture in Zulu worked was with disciplined, sustained fire to a tempo. Otherwise it is just noise, and that is the difference.

“Message discipline and a focused response with all of us firing in the same direction at the same time [is the key]. It does not sound very complicated, but… if we can achieve it in small numbers, then we are in business… [Finally,] [t]he government is relying upon the status quo effect, so what we will be saying is that there is no status quo. There is a divergence of paths. We can either go into the euro or we can become second-class citizens. That is the message. If we take the trope at face value that we want to be at the heart of Europe, due to what Cameron tells us and what the Tories have always told us before, the European Union is going to say that the price of being at the heart of Europe is now joining the euro. We can’t do that… But we’ve got a better way—and I think that is actually quite a powerful, positive message that people will warm to if it is presented properly”.

Now, I probably ought to watch Zulu.